We love the travel photos of Johan Michielsen, the creative brain behind Affect Fotografie. Since 2011, he has been traveling with his camera and a backpack full of glasses to areas where people live far from civilization who, for various reasons, have no opportunity to purchase good glasses.
Johan lives in Helvoirt. He has a farm with an amazing view over the meadows where cows are grazing peacefully and where chickens can kick through the orchard. In daily life he works as a process and project manager for 2 municipalities and photography is, we can say, his highly valued passion.
“As a child I liked to watch Uncle Jan when he drew something freehand on the notepad,” says Johan. In the summer months he worked at the farm a little further away and so he could buy his first box with brushes and oil paint with his earned money. “Initially I copied portraits and animals of great masters such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. But when I went to college and went to study, I noticed that my painting supplies had been left untouched in the same place for quite some time.” So, it’s a shame. Making a beautiful painting is fun, but it takes some time. That is why he switched from painting to photography. “I started with slides and black and white film, which was of course completely analog at the time. I developed the photos in the darkroom of the local photo club.” Johan has been taking photographs for years now and with the arrival of social media he has gained quite a bit of name recognition. You will find it under Affect Fotografie.
Johan photographs in different styles. He makes many still lifes, Dutch landscapes and portraits. In addition to being a photographer, Johan is also a passionate world traveler. With a backpack full of second chance glasses, Johan flies towards the horizon in search of the most remote places on earth. Here he likes to portray the locals and preferably the locals who need glasses. “These people sometimes live too far from civilization, which makes it impossible to go to the store and buy good glasses. Or it is simply too expensive. This promotion really helps enormously in making contact.”
“Chishema shahihe?” Johan then asks. “It is very funny to see these people staring at me with wide eyes. Because why would a tall white man like me ask if you need glasses? From experience I know that they invariably think they have misunderstood, and then when I pull out a pair of glasses, they reach out and make a gesture with thumb and forefinger indicating that they cannot afford the glasses, but that’s no problem.” In this way, Doctor Johan, as he is often called, is a hero. Children who can see well in this way for the first time are amazed by the razor-sharp world that opens up to them. “This project enables me to make portraits with a soul while traveling. When I later look at them on my screen, it feels like I’m looking in at people, and they at me. It is a special experience that fills me with satisfaction because I have really been able to make people happy with something as simple as glasses that have become redundant here in the West.”
You can read more information about this project on Facebook or read more information on this website.
Such a journey is an adventure in itself because Johan comes to places that are difficult to reach. There are no good roads, so our tents, food and other gear are transported by horses. As soon as they are on location, the tents are set up, but Johan is usually not there. “Usually after the first cup of tea I am already on the road in the hope that I will meet someone else or that I can photograph a beautiful landscape.”
The favorite image of a Buddhist child, nun. In this picture, we are being stared at cute by two big brown eyes. The girl’s red clothing contrasts well with the green background. “I took this photo in a hidden nunnery. I would never have found this monastery if I did not spontaneously decide to go out. My goal was to look for people who need glasses, and I found them, who were working in a field. Once I had fitted two ladies with glasses, it turned out that someone in the party was a nun. She asked me if I would like to come to the monastery. Since I am always very attracted to unknown religious buildings and special places, I immediately indicated that I definitely wanted to. I was received by the head of the Gompa, as they call a Tibetan Buddhist monastery in the Himalayas. I was led to a small dining room through the kitchen. Soon people arrived from the nearby village. In my backpack I had some glasses and I asked people if they could use glasses and if so, whether they should be for near or far. Glasses after glasses were handed out while the nuns present gave me a bowl of soup and a local dish. The atmosphere was very pleasant. Although we couldn’t understand each other, people laughed about the strange glasses people put on their heads, or the fact that they sometimes could see even worse. It was a hilarious moment. On the way back I walked through the kitchen again where two nuns were busy with unshelled peas. At the sight of me they immediately dove down, but the sweet little girl kept looking at me dreamily. It looked like a scene from a movie, I had to take this picture. Without my eyewear project, I would never have been to this monastery and I would never have been able to take this amazing picture.”